Photo by Tam West
I first tried kitchari (meaning “mixture”) at a yoga retreat where it was served as a nourishing and sustaining breakfast food — not too spicy, with the beans and rice giving slow-release energy for the day ahead.
The key ingredient is mung dhal which is simply husked and split mung beans, also known as moong or green gram. They’re green on the outside but bright yellow in the middle. This version was a lovely surprise when I tried it at Seabreeze in Westmere recently, with kale and peas adding a welcome fresh twist.
I was particularly taken with how the chef served it with bright white coconut yoghurt, vivid red tangy-sweet pomegranate and contrasting black mustard seeds. From an Ayurvedic perspective, kitchari is seen as a cleansing food — an opportunity to nourish yourself gently and step back from overly rich foods for a little while. You can happily eat it for a week without feeling too deprived and your body will likely appreciate the change of pace.
Having said that, there’s always the option to ramp up the spices if you fancy more of a curry experience. It also works well to make a batch of the base and keep it in the fridge for a few days, ready to add peas and kale (or other fresh goodies) when you want them. I love how this dish transcends the time of day. Give it a go and you might make a new friend.
Note: Dhal means “split” — so obvious when you think about it!
- Rinse and soak the dhal and rice in cold water for one hour.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic paste and ginger. Cook for two minutes. Add the spices and cook for further two minutes, until fragrant.
- Add the drained dhal and rice and stir to coat well in the spices for a few minutes. Add kumara and boiling water, bring to a boil then turn down to simmer for approx 30 minutes until the rice and dhal is a loose porridge consistency. Season with salt and lemon juice (to taste).
- When ready to serve, add the kale and frozen peas and heat for a few minutes until they soften. You can easily substitute other green leafy veges for kale too.
- Serve in a bowl with a dollop of coconut yoghurt, a sprinkle of chilli powder and lots of coriander.
- To finish heat some coconut oil until frothy and add the reserved mustard seeds. Cook until they pop and then spoon over the yoghurt. Pomegranate seeds are also great on top if you can get them, the sweet tang and bright colour are a lovely contrast to the rest of the dish.